Contains moderate hedge and bird peril.

Half term holiday. The last one of the year, in advance of the bigger holiday in the middle. The half term lengths that Summer had been preposterous, making a mockery of mathematics with a seven/three split. Staff and students alike finished the last week of the seven in a state of wide-eyed exhaustion. Next week, he thought, we return to a nothingy three week session, to be packed with last minute exam revision for those students that just realised this isn’t a drill, gimmicky distraction projects for the lower years, and assorted frantic loose end set text conclusion… all this in between preparing for next year, school trips and celebration assemblies.

Yeah, quite enjoyable,really, but a lot to do. I love having conversations about this with a particular pal of mine, as all he hears is “I have another week off now, then in three weeks I have another long holiday”. It supports his comically reductive line that teachers start at 9am and finish at 3.30 five days a week, sit down to enjoy lavish vacations for months on end, and generally live a cosseted Life of Reilly in the Land of the Cushy Numbers, unlike people with proper jobs. \n

Of course, his pose is marred somewhat by a role as a freelance graphic designer, whose social media updates speak of a life permanently plugged in, yet with ample time to draft epic responses, including well-chosen gif accompaniments; where working from home means every day is by default a day off; his whole calendar a matter of choice, dictated only by how much time one feels like spending on resizing pictures of cartoon teachers to fit the page.

Tee hee! Soon, though, I will in fact be luxuriating in the time-riches of a quite extensive holiday, yes, to be fair. And that means time to get at the garden. There are lots of little jobs becoming bigger jobs by the day: clusters of weeds emboldened by neglect, piles of wood accumulating with no firm designs for their future… and The Hedge.

[FX: Dramatic chords]

The so-called week off so far has been spent locked in combat with an extensive thicket round the perimeter. As regular readers may recall, we rent, but devote care and attention to our fortunate-to-have-it outside space. This hedge, though. 30-odd metres of privet. I am told it was originally maintained at about chest height, but since those fabled times it has transmuted into cyclopean ramparts the like of which might send a rational mind into a fever dream of unutterable intensity. F’tagen. It is my bête vert.

It is also about nine feet high, at least two feet higher than it should be. So shockingly high that I have switched measurement systems in my bewilderment. Most of April and May has been a write-off for good gardening weather, and many of the plants we put in at the start of the year are kind of wheezing their way out of the ground. Two feet of shadow on the hedge side is no help.

Effecting this trim is easier said than done, though. Some of the inner branches are the thickness of the base of my thumbs. Even the electric clippers’ battery has had enough, sending me pithy commentary on the process when it should be charging.

Still, it was progressing… but then, aaagh, I inadvertently exposed a nest with two baby sparrows in it. Rapidly-downed tools, hasty re-covering action, and a rethink. An important gardening lesson learned there: know your local birds’ mating seasons and nesting habits, and check foliage carefully before commencing any pruning.

I’ve started again from the top end, away from the entrance. And, happy ending: the parent birds returned within 20 minutes of the privet toupee being pushed into place.

Time off also means a bit more opportunity to attend to things like writing. The Pomera caught my eye last week, via the Offscreen Dispatch newsletter.

An E-ink Typewriter, a distraction-free composition tool, the spec on Kickstarter says it does calendar and spreadsheets, etc, has lengthy battery life, and comes with spiffy folding keyboard for portability.

It has a pleasingly retro appearance: bit clunky looking and partially techy; portable and does the jobbish? A Psion organiser sort of scenario. They have been available in Japan for 10 years, also a retrograde quality (for people in the west, at least, with notions along the lines of “Ah, Japan! Land of the Near Future!” etc). The kit is priced at an ‘early days of video’ level – something that seems stratospherically high for what it can actually do. The price point for the English version is about £300, which has something of the super keen, well-off early adopters-only about it.

This kind of put me off a little entire amount.

In the skint teacherish absence of shiny fresh toys, then, I’m writing this on a decrepit Asus Aspire One. Eight years old. Intel Atom inside (TM, etc). Weeeell… It’s good for typing on? I can even do spreadsheets, but if I start asking it to do other stuff one might take for granted from even a half-decent smartphone in 2018, it starts freaking out and seizing up, like a middle aged man in the throes of a back spasm. By “other stuff”, I mean run a web browser, for example. An attempted update of Firefox made it wander off into another room to forget what it was doing there for about forty minutes. Chrome fared even worse (still out looking for its car in a neighbouring street, I think). It’s probably for the best. So, here I am using WriteMonkey, which the Acer at least seems able to handle without waving a hand frantically and gesturing vaguely over its shoulder.

This week’s sunny weather and border landscaping saw outside basking prioritised over content consumption anyway. I note with interest that Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger is up for the Golden Booker prize. The Booker of All Bookers (whatever) is to be announced on 8th July, which gives me time to read the version I have hidden in a box somewhere beforehand, and maybe Midnight’s Children as well, which also sits awaiting interest.

Shelves. I’ve fallen into a nice rhythm with bits of the KonMari Method. “You’ve got to have a system!” (H.Hill) Originally, I had confidently expected the process to be done in a couple of weeks, scoffing at the slow six months suggested in the supporting literature (gleaned from a cursory skim through the website, I mean).

Yet, faced with boxes opened, looked through, deemed essential, re-lidded, then re-opened and re-appraised in fits of ‘No, come on, seriously…’ I have come to appreciate the *extended project-ness* of it all.

A lifetime habit of accumulating tat will require more than a simple act of abandonment, much as I enjoy those. I keep finding books from old flames and forgotten friends, and all those need to be attended to properly. Marie Kondo’s concept of resacralising is an interesting aspect, but, as Edgar Poe suggested, whenever people talk about the supernal oneness, there’s never a word said about the infernal twoness. I’ve found there’s an element of exorcism to undergo as well. Thankfully short on pea soup projectile vomiting, though, at least so far. This is probably because I’ve started with the “papers” bit of “books and papers”, in a somewhat craven act of alphabetical chicanery.

Finally for this week, I’m publishing *just about* in time to share my annual appreciation of the high and windy genius that is The Paragons, “Riding High on a Windy Day”.


Rock never came any steadier. I wear a smile upon my face, anyway.

Friday last was pure week-before-end-of-half-term misery. Skool sags beneath an accumulation of assessment marking feeding into immediate report writing, and it’s all compounded by interminable lessons with grumpy kids not listening to shattered staff. And – AND!! – it’s scorchio out, so literally no one cares.

Added in to that febrile melange, Friday also brought the realisation that a trio of e-cigarette vendors stand within 100m of each other on Knareborough High Street.

Across the road.

With empty shops sat between! The heat, the insanity, the Vapours… It all looked set to see an end to the equilibrium of sobriety that had ruled for so long.

Well, maybe in old money. Waking up Saturday morning the wallowing was truncated directly, blues batted hence in a blur of house sprucing, which made everyone feel better. I also made a loaf, which has become a pleasant habit of a weekend morning.

Here’s a little recipe tribute to Warren Ellis.

Bread

  • 500g flour (one of these ones, usually)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 300ml water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Yeast tends to be either 1 tsp quick yeast in with the flour, or 1tbsp of the reactivated sort you need to mix with warm water first. Given that I’ve been doing this with partially closed eyes around 5am the last few weeks, it’s been the considerably less fiddly quick yeast.

Everything dry gets mixed with a spoon, then I tip in the water and mix that, then add the oil, at which point it miraculously switches from “craggy” and dry to something more moist and resembling dough.

10 minutes kneading. Don’t stint. It will give in at some point to become smooth, elastic and pliable. Make a ball shape.

Leave it covered in a bowl somewhere warm for 40 minutes. The books all say “until doubled in size”, but it must be a factor of my eyes being only partially open that it never looks that different.

Read stories and give bananas to youngest, who’s got up demanding bananas and stories.

“Knock it back.” Give the now risen dough a thwack to remove air. Sometimes I like to grunt “Yer name’s not down, yer not coming in,” at the point of impact. That’s not actually true, but I might start. Re-knead, make a loaf shape and leave it to rise for about 80 minutes.

Play 4000 games of Top Trumps with eldest who’s also now up.

Our electric oven goes on at 180°, and the loaf cooks for about 45-50 mins, depending on how long the oven was on prior to opening.

Slice, slap on approx. 3cm layers of Isigny Sainte-Mère butter (the ponce factor here is low, in fact: it’s in Sainsbury’s and the same price as Lurpak) and gronff with coffee.

That was fun, anyway.

What else? Oh yes, the Ukrainian dolphins. (Hums Sylvanian Families jingle, substituting words in head) Pop “Ukraine dolphins” in your search engine.

The Guardian offered a moderated tone to their report, with a nod to the idea that there is “a lot of disinformation floating around” (one of the more understated aquatic puns related to this news item). However, many outlets went long on “diabolical Russkies” even when filtering out the more outlandish claims of cetacean patriotism.

Meanwhile, my five-year old was engrossed in our reading of this tale, where ninja-skilled princesses work to find buried treasure and save a wounded dolphin from ill-treatment by a greedy prince.

No prizes for guessing which was the more realistic story.

From “The Filth”, by Morrison/Weston/Erskine, 2002

This morning we went for a bit of sunshine and tat browsing at Pannal at boot. Got a nice tape-and-cd player for a fiver – spent the afternoon doing reports while listening to a T. Rex best of and 4 Way Street by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

See if you can follow the riffs and work out which song prompted the title for this week’s Bath chunterings.

Other than that, it remains only to trail a forthcoming album Visions of Africa, which contains a selection of the hundreds of Toto covers proliferating…

… I seek to cure what’s deep inside.

[Reposting to put it back in its rightful place in the timeline, and for minor edits occasioned by removal of erroneous copy/paste text]

Last week was a short working week thanks to Bank Holiday Monday off. Though still, regrettably, a working week, locked into this global pyramid scheme and unable to extricate. The seemingly effortless genius of the Childish Gambino event for This Is America pretty much set the mood for us.

It’s quite remarkable in its commitment and range of ideas, in any of its various contexts.

Was glad to discover Liz Phair continues to rock.

Need a planet without cars and wars… I wish it could be true.

…got riled by newsletters that just post links and click bait.

Listened to a great podcast, The Horror Self, Conner Habib in conversation with horror writer Brian Evenson. I haven’t had chance to read Evenson’s works yet, but he had lots of interesting ideas. A chance comment they made about Beckett had me wander off dabbing madeleine crumbs from my chin (yes i kno thats Proust) and thinking about the time I saw John Hurt in Krapp’s Last Tape. I am convinced it was one of the stages at the Barbican in London, but… the details are hazy.

Also stirring memories of previous selves this week was the unfortunate Scott Hutchison of band Frightened Rabbit, who went missing in the middle of some personal problems, and whose body was later found by police. Variety’s report on the story gives a fuller picture, though his tweets, first reported in “concerns grow for the safety of” reports, take on a kind of tragic, obvious significance in the light of what happened.

Difficult, allusive thoughts on responsibility, on treating people badly, a judgemental tone, a pervasive sense of personal failure, a combination of contrition, abandonment, resolve and futility… I recognise it all. His words had an eerie resonance with things I have thought, written, expressed, fucked up in the same way. It made me quite emotional, glad I had the great fortune to be able to recognise support from friends, to be able to make it over that great forbidding bulk, to learn from the experience, and not to perish on its exposed flanks.

My sympathies to his friends, followers and so on. And yes, hugs to all your loved ones, perhaps especially the ones you think you’ve failed.

Thank god that’s all done with, anyway.

– Krapp

Finally, this week I’ve been forging new working methods (words and music). The nascent schedule was interrupted by our youngest child developing a comically unpleasant sickness bug, reminiscent of The Exorcist. Full-on, handprints smeared across walls, ankle deep in body horror bathroom nightmares sort of stuff. With that and the day job, it was difficult to establish the rhythms I’d intended… but I got going, if a little syncopated.

One of the things was a writing challenge, for which I missed the deadline… and now I am having bother locating the precise origin of the prompt… but anyway: the task was to go to the New Releases section of Project Gutenberg, pick a title that you liked, then write something riffing on that. Here’s the title I fell on:

Illustrated Horse Breaking

At Wyatt’s Stable Yard, the so-hip-it-hurts hangout of the moment, one of the horses is going through his warm-up routine.

Planting one hoof firmly, with a swagger he floats the other to the ground, a succession of freeze-frames, each movement accompanied by a change in expression: rolling eyes, fury, mugging, a comic tongue lolling, ears flattened, a wide-mouthed grin sheer delight, slack jaw aping the watching press pack. Legs still tense, splayed, he swings up a hoof to close his mouth, his stance relaxes and the spell is broken as he snorts with laughter.

“You’ve got to play around,” he says, and this statement encapsulates the wanton abandon of one of the brightest stars of the post-dressage firmament, Re-Drum.

The unforgettable moment that this heavily tattooed former Olympic champion shocked the precise and exacting world of dressage with a jaw-dropping interpolation of street dance moves is the stuff of internet legend. Clips of that routine – where he first transitioned from Piaffe to Jackhammer, bouncing off one hoof immediately to Change of Direction into a sequence of apparently never-ending Air Flares – stunned the watching crowd and has been seen since by millions.

“The Horse That Broke The Internet, yeah, yeah!” His infectious laugh is as genuine as his self-effacement. “Well, it turned into this thing, but we’d been talking about it, and we knew we just… the time was right, y’know? I mean, we were disqualified, remember?”

Although his easy patter is disarming, this final comment has a barbed quality that suggests his career since has been motivated by more than a love of play.

The idea of classicists becoming energised by urban motifs is nothing particularly innovative. One recalls with indulgence Nigel Kennedy’s football hooligan persona, and insistence on matey abbreviation for composers (Viv) and equipment (Strad) alike. There have been others: the line of RSC actors that have moved from Macbeth to the Marvel universe stretches out to the crack of doom. Yet Re-Drum, formerly Neuschwanstein II, cites his own journey from the Standard Arena to the worn flagstones of Wyatt’s Stable Yard as one of “coming home”.

” For sure, we’re all from the stables. Sometimes gees get used to the horsebox lifestyle, the nosebag, if you nose what I mean?” He feints a hoof past one briefly flared nostril. “But we all come out on to straw. This being born with silver stirrups idea… I never knew my sire. Neusch and me haven’t ever met. Everyone thought I’d do what he did – which was win everything, twice – but I wanted to go somewhere different. I know the old fella’s watching, he reads your paper.”

Re-Drum tips a heavily-accented wink as abruptly he changes direction again. He is keen to recommence practice, and while his candour is genuine he demonstrates an impatience any time the conversation lingers too long on history.

His choreographer – former rider Chantal Wyatt, herself a member of a proud lineage, having inherited the Yard complex from her late father Robert in the early noughties – is certain that there are further changes of tack to come.

“He’s only just started. It’s all Re, no doubt. He’s the originator.” Asked if she feels sidelined, she is quick to demur. “I’m there for balance, but he’s all about the solo stuff at the minute. I’m happier running the keyboard stuff, calendar and so forth?” She waggles her fingers. Without breaking stride, Re-Drum, passing in a wide circle with ostentatious steps, waggles a hoof at eye level. More laughter, and the interview has to conclude.

Across the yard, all around the pair are similar exiles from the formalised restrictions of traditional dressage. Jetset and Stella H are already household names. With more and more talent arriving to go through their paces with Re-Drum the originator, his game could be getting serious.

————————————————————–

Y’know. If there are zones of the multiverse where anthropomorphic whimsy, punning and horses are a mystery, I hope our timelines never cross.

This was supposed to be last week’s weekend (6th May) whatsit… App/draft/update confusion.

Further to my previous notes regarding newsletters, I’m going to get ahead of the publication fashion curve and carry on posting here, in what may turn out to be the online writing equivalent of sporting flares throughout the 1980s, optimistic that a 70s revival is imminent.

See, though, then it WAS… Now the 20-odd year spin cycle has pushed us into the world of Ned’s Atomic Dustbin reunion tours, so we must, surely, be due something or other else shortly? Surely to god? Things to come: in 2023, Rihanna does guest vocals on track by artist in Year 7 (~12yrs old)… feat. lavish beats – offensive to the ear of all people over 27 – in collision with ragtime basslines and sampled tracks from Trickle Down Theory of Lord Knows What.

Musical exchange has been exercising me this week. I haven’t got time to compile a top ten, sorry, but I’ll remedy that next week. Had a dream about the cultural significance of The Stone Roses, in a weirdly nested, cherished record specific-to-a-small-community lived reality way that I found impossible to pin down when I woke up. It was likely prompted by reading Junglist…

Super time capsule evocations of culture with minutiae of dress codes, cigarette brands, etc. Also probably prompted by recent reading (twitter & elsewhere) of people wrestling with the issue of having their love of The Smiths’ music tainted by Morrisery holding problematic views, as if Roland Barthes never wrote anything about such a notion.

That and the ongoing recurrence of recurrent stylistic revisitations, remixes, recycling… musically and textually, a tip of the hat to jdevans, who reminded me of a FIZZY post from a few years back… I never got round to a “proper” write-up of that gig, although the original post probably qualifies as a proper write-up tbf. I got quite a bit out of the Steve Ignorant autobiography I bought on the night, would recommend that.

In a shorter musical cycle of exchange, my long-term music pusher, present at Sunburned Hand of the Man and Sleaford Mods gigs, sent me a link literally just now, for some 1980s South African synth pop comp, Gumbo Fire, which is making great soundtrack to extemporize by.

Had a handful of hospital-related appointments this week, the highlight of which was discovering a relatively recent copy of Reader’s Digest among the magazines in the waiting room.

Such a mainstay of my formative reading years (I Am John’s Sense Of Nostalgia). It read about how I’d have expected. They still pay for jokes readers submit, although it’s no longer Laughter, the Best Medicine, possibly because of killjoy pedantry from the Advertising Standards Authority, so instead it’s called Laugh! Imperative use seemed a bit desperate as an editorial strategy… I thought, hey, there must be some NHS/privatisation analogy in there somewhere, but before I had time to consider it any further I was called in for my thing.

Also saw this:

Laughed my abstract ass off. Sorry for the vague citation, but this was in a magazine article on decluttering I happened upon… which I’m not sure now isn’t synchronicity or just further evidence of The Man jamming my brainwaves.

Had a similar “terrible copy” experience in T.K. Maxx the other week:

I recall my heart wanting very much to sweep these scented abominations to the floor of the shop, with an insincere “Oops”. Sadly, I got distracted by some cheap sportswear, so the sound of breaking glass remains an unquittable dream.

What else? Oh yeah, while we’re smashing the system, witness this marvellous Comrade Peter Rabbit figurine, protesting the wage conditions in McDonald’s:

“What’s stopping you?”

“I notice you ask that before telling me your pay scale.”

Obviously we were in Maccy D’s taking field notes for a sociolinguistic study, “Mothers of invention: late-stage capitalism, parenting and the illusion of choice”, working title, etc.

So, that was the last week or so, anyway. Next week, it’s likely to be five terse lines on how much assessment marking there is to be done at this time of year.

And so, gentle reader, we draw the curtains on 26 days of alphabet-prompted writing and cosy up once more beneath the duvet of sporadic blogging.

This month has been a good reminder of the pleasures and annoyances of writing to a schedule. I was going to write joys, and I suppose there is a bit of that, but the correct partner then would be pains (sunshine, rain), and that would make for a somewhat overstated representation of the process. Some of the posts cracked a direct line into my favoured seams of inspiration… some seemed rather like I was forcing water into the fissures a little, but not many, though, not really.

That aspect of going through the motions was a prime mover in stopping blogging last time I stopped, and managing to avoid that was positive. Finding suitable subjects was mostly fun. There were some topics I was interested in exploring that I abandoned for a complex of reasons, mainly because I didn’t have an appropriate amount of time to potter about in them to a satisfactory level.

Getting a smattering of chatter from pals has been good too. Sharing views… It – The Process (dramatically sincere and emphatic voice) – has whetted my appetite for producing more regular discursive whimsy in this or similar outlet.

It’ll probably more than likely be a newsletter in some form, although there’s an element of them being a bit five minutes ago. So it goes. Who knows what innovation waits round the corner… personal websites and… blogging?

Imagine. Right now, o thrice-blessed reader, I’ve careered through bedtime and it’s time for lights out on this month’s endeavours.

Perusing the dictionary in search of inspiration, I happen upon the word yoicks.

>exclamation used by fox hunters to urge on the hounds

Of course – of course! – the first thing I thought of was Scooby Doo.

…although I realised I was likely conflating “Yikes!” and “Zoinks!” in relation to usage by Shaggy or Scoob.

Yet… yikes is listed as a possible variant of yoicks, and the notion of a word being used “to urge on the hounds” turning up in a cartoon about a dog has a nice continuity about it.

I am delighted further to find that etymological discussion on this issue has been exercising internet scholars for some time.

Tally-ho! It’s Z on Monday.

Perusing the dictionary in search of inspiration, I happen upon the word yoicks.

>exclamation used by fox hunters to urge on the hounds

Of course – of course! – the first thing I thought of was Scooby Doo.

…although I realised I was likely conflating “Yikes!” and “Zoinks!” in relation to usage by Shaggy or Scoob.

Yet… yikes is listed as a possible variant of yoicks, and the notion of a word being used “to urge on the hounds” turning up in a cartoon about a dog has a nice continuity about it.

I am delighted further to find that etymological discussion on this issue has been exercising internet scholars for some time.

Tally-ho! It’s Z on Monday.